A rebuttal to Kevin Ash’s Super Tenere review

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How long will it take for western motorcycle media to understand that pure enthusiasts are not the volume drivers of this industry? Many will think Kevin Ash’s recent review on HFL for the 2012 Yamaha Super Tenere is fair and balanced, but it’s just as possible the criticisms leveled against the new Yamaha are misdirected and narrow in scope.

I admit to having a pro-Japanese tilt, but the fact is that direct competition to the GS, Multistrada etc, is not the plan.  The Super Tenere and Honda Crossrunner (660 Tenere, Honda Transalp, etc) are soft-user focused, for people who don’t trust or simply are  unwilling to buy into European legacy brands.  Just like the Honda CRV or Toyota RAV4 are not real trucks (compared to a Jeep or GMC or Land Rover), they are simple to digest, “safe” choice for the middle-of-the-road crowd.

Yes, BMW, KTM and Ducati all make safe, reliable motorcycles, but that is not the point to these people.  Your typical Super Tenere customer will be an ex-R1, Fireblade, GSX-R customer who has owned ten Japanese bikes, and has long ago “bought in” to the myths surrounding their superiority, and European motorcycle’s inferiority.

Most of these people do not comment in online magazines, participate in customer clinics or write into motorcycle media, but quietly go on buying and riding motorcycles.

And that is a lot of people.

As for the cruiser analogy, it is misplaced.  Japanese cruisers may not be “the real thing” for hard core users, but Yamaha’s Star line has been consistently a huge seller in the US market, second only to Harley with a quarter of market share, and hefty profit margins. BMW tried to get into that lucrative market with the 1200C and failed miserably.  Being “second best” or “a mere copy” has served the company very well for thirty years, and created a legitimate market for modern, liquid-cooled and otherwise sporty cruisers.  So much so that Victory has done more emulating of the Yamaha formula than that of H-D.  I think BMW could stand to learn a thing or two from Yamaha about new market penetration.

  • ike6116

    Great reply. I believe the Yamahas and Hondas of the world built their following with reliability and price, the same way Honda and Toyota did with cars. Not only were you getting a more reliable vehicle but you were getting it for less. I’m not sure that’s so much the case anymore where you get more for less by buying Yamaha / Honda and I think relying on installed bases to just go ahead and sustain you while you release inferior products is folly, it may last awhile short term but people do catch up.

  • Johndo

    A Tiger 800 XC will probably outperform this bike for way less $. And you get the best sound an engine can produce, free on top of that. I think this Tenere was a great idea, the bike just came out 10-15 years too late. With all reviews done about bikes, luggage, etc, I still can’t understand how companies can design products that are less then perfect by now. I mean having to take off the seat, then the fearing, to adjust the windscreen? How much thought was put into that?

  • NitroPye

    I don’t understand how they can miss on so many of the obvious little things.

  • http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=305107 stickfigure

    “People will buy it because it’s Japanese”. Maybe true, but these people deserve to be mocked just as much as people who buy American or German vehicles irrespective of price, performance, and features.

    Irrational brand loyalty doesn’t do the industry any favors. It just keeps companies like Harley-Davidson in business.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Well said.

    • Pete

      Here Here.

    • http://www.twitter.com/beastincarnate Beast Incarnate

      This reminds me of the “straight party vote” option on Tuesday’s ballot. 60% of people in my area used that option. Thinking is not a majority trait.

      Sidenote: I suggest calling this condition irrational bland loyalty. That’s the end result.

  • MikeD

    I just want to say that for me to move from buying Japan Inc Products is going to take a lot…i don’t feel that “false security feeling” yet when i look at stuff that comes from the other side of the Atlantic.Nothing scares me more than hearing back ordered and discontinued coming from a parts department.

    False Security Feeling Syndrome: U feel secure about ur bike(s) state of health becuase u know it pretty much like the palm of your hand even tho u know there’s a 50/50 chance it could leave stranded anywhere, anytime, no notice just like any other vehicle. But u have known the bike and brand for so long now that u have come to terms and would feel at peace if it were to happen.
    That Brand for me would be SUZUKI.

    • MikeD

      P.S: StickFigure is right on the money, even tho i think it goes totally opposite to what i just wrote…(O_O )’, i guess i just want to say that i see the facts and back up his comment.

  • pplassm

    Michael, I think you have it wrong. I’d love to have a GS, at least give it a whirl, but the current demand for the beasts keeps the price out of reach. For me, anyway. Even five-ten year old bikes command prices that I am not willing to part with.

    Chances are, I will be able to pick up a SuperTen at a much more attractive price in six years. I’ll wait. I may want one by then.

  • guerrila

    As disheartening as it is to hear words like “soft-user focused”,
    “middle-of-the-road” and “new market penetration” cited as the primary drivers for the industry, there is a valid point in there…namely that despite what Americans like to think of themselves, Americans like bland…bland cars and bland bikes.

    But where the Japanese (and the North American arms of their respective operations, more specifically) continue to fall down is in their inexplicable refusal to offer interesting entry and mid-range products to snag and hook new riders, products…sorry, BIKES…that already exist in their global lineups. But much like the Amercian auto industry, they seem more interested in selling bloated, high-margin, over-contented and over-priced bikes to a handful of retired orthodontists than to building a culture of young riders. Unnamed-Yamaha-designer dismisses web boards like this at his peril. Perhaps he’s noticed that “what’s driving the industry” at present is about to drive it off a cliff. Young(ish) riders that dont’ want to shell out 5 fiures for a 600lb bike are either building their own…using 30 year old bikes from their own companies…or simply buying used.

  • ridingdirtymaui

    Wow, someone has their panties in a bunch! So Yamaha built a bike that isn’t quite as good as the GS. Who really has? So they make something in the same catagory that will inspire Non GS loyalists and Yamaha loyalists to buy one.

  • TeeJay

    Let me highlight one thing. You are comparing a brand new bike(*) with a top-of-the-cream, 30-years-of-development adventure bike.

    (*) Sure Yamaha won several Dakars – years back (don’t mention 450s…). They have no current experience in this area, specially if we not count the recent XTZ660.

    Taking into account the above, further the fact that almost EVERYTHING in this area is defined by BMW – more precisely, the expectations and rote of GS users, wanna-be-owners. So I think Yamaha ultimately fails to create a “real rival” for the GS – at least for the first or second gen. new STs.
    But hey, you already comparing the ST to the GS – that at least means something…

  • MTGR

    Interesting that these Japanese models are “Soft-User” focused but still seem to be Hard-Core-Enthusiast priced.

    I have no issue with performance matching the level their intended market needs, but should the price differences not also be adjusted to their needs? Particularly in a marketplace that has for years (mostly due to the marketing practices and preaching of the big 4 Japanese makers) pushed the idea that level of high tech/high performance is what determines the level of cost of entry.

  • elizilla

    I own a 1992 TDM. I love that bike. Other bikes have come and gone from my garage while I have owned the TDM. When people ask me which bike I like best, I say “When I am on the roads I like best, the TDM is the bike I like most.” Alas, I don’t get to spend all my time on the roads I like best. And the other bikes I have owned, have usually been better for the kind of roads I have to ride, to get to the good stuff.

    I look at this Tenere and wonder if it would be like a TDM on the good roads, while serving as a better touring bike on the ride to and from the good roads?

    The GS doesn’t appeal to me very much – I don’t like the characteristics of the R engine, I dislike the Bill the Cat look of the headlights, and they’re just too wide to suit me. I owned a V-Strom for a while but got sick of replacing chains. I like the looks of the Honda Crosstourer concept bike but who knows if we’ll ever get one? The SuperTenere is coming, it’s like the TDM only with a shaft and better touring abilities, and I could have it this year! It’s tempting…